WASHINGTON, April 14 U.S. retail sales recorded
their largest gain in 1-1/2 years in March, in the latest sign
the economy was emerging from its weather-induced slumber and on
track to accelerate in the second quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Monday retail sales
increased 1.1 percent last month, the biggest rise since
September 2012, as receipts rose in nearly all categories.
Retail sales, which account for a third of consumer
spending, had risen by a revised 0.7 percent in February.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast retail sales,
advancing 0.8 percent last month after a previously reported 0.3
percent gain in February.
Retail sales added to employment data in suggesting the
economy found momentum at the end of the first quarter after an
unusually cold and snowy winter disrupted economic activity at
the end of 2013 and the beginning of this year.
So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline,
building materials and food services, and correspond most
closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic
product, increased 0.8 percent in March.
That followed a revised 0.4 percent rise in February. Core
retail sales had previously been reported to have increased 0.3
percent in February.
Despite the two consecutive months of gains, a drop in core
sales in January suggests consumer spending will slow down
substantially from the fourth quarter's brisk 3.3 percent pace.
Retail sales last month were buoyed by a 3.1 percent surge
in receipts at automobile and parts dealers. That was the
biggest advance since September 2012. Excluding autos, retail
sales were up 0.7 percent, the biggest increase in a year,
after rising 0.3 percent in February.
Sales at building materials and garden equipment stores
increased 1.8 percent, the largest rise in eight months.
Receipts at electronics and appliance stores, however, fell
1.6 percent. There were also declines in sales at gasoline
stations, which fell 1.3 percent. Excluding gasoline, retail
sales rose a solid 1.4 percent, the biggest rise in four years.
Sales at furniture stores increased 1.0 percent. Receipts at
clothing stores climbed 1.0 percent as well. There were also
gains in receipts at sporting goods shops, restaurants and
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)